The Oilfield Technology team has recently returned from the magazine’s regular attendance at OTC in Houston. If you were there, (as I’m sure many of you were) you’ll probably be aware that the visitor attendance of the event reached 89 400 – the greatest turn out in 30 years, and 14% more than last year. As I made my way through the crowds and around the 2500 exhibiting companies over the course of four days and talked to them about their products and business areas, it was increasingly clear that we are operating in a thriving and growing industry.
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There was much talk about novel technology, first-of-a-kind innovations, and methods to enhance our ability to locate and tap evermore difficult to harness oil and gas reserves. Our industry is not content with replicating traditional approaches to exploration, drilling and production techniques. As reserves become ever-more challenging, the industry is rising to that challenge, which makes it an exciting sector to be involved in at the moment.
Judging by the discussions I enjoyed with industry professionals at our booth and on the exhibition floor, there continues to be a large degree of interest in the burgeoning LNG export sector in the US, and a sense of expectation around the growing potential of LNG exports from the country (on the back of shale gas) and the benefits that growth in this particular sector will bring to the US and the rest of the world. Shale gas in particular is still top of the conversation stakes, with a technical focus on improving methods of recovery and increasing the profitability of operators’ shale assets. In the popular opinion stakes, however, shale gas is still suffering from bad press. I recently caught a portion of an American prime time chat show in which actor Mark Ruffalo, who plays the part of The Hulk in the new Hollywood blockbuster ‘The Avengers’ used his time on global television (I watched the programme in Spain) to explain the method of, and rail against the dangers of fracking, particularly in his local area in New England. The potentially hazardous nature of the composition of fracking fluids is a growing area of contention, and fears need to be allayed if shale gas reserves are to be successfully harnessed on a global scale.
Exploration-wise, there was much discussion around operating in the Arctic and other inhospitable environments. The seemingly insurmountable challenges involved in functioning in the harshest regions of the world are being addressed head-on by industry engineers. Over and over again when presenting technological solutions at OTC, companies reiterated the key importance of reliability, simplification, durability and safety. Wireless capabilities were a common feature of new technology, the benefits comprising the ability to operate equipment more remotely – keeping personnel at safer distances from isolated operating environments and reducing the need for labour-intensive equipment-based intervention and maintenance. Equipment is becoming more accurate – and new ways of dealing with vast amounts of information are being formulated. Time is being saved, human error margins are being decreased and components are lasting longer. Constructions are getting larger and stronger, and global language and cultural barriers are becoming more successfully bridged than ever before.
It seems like a time to be positive: capabilities once considered impossible, are increasingly being proved possible.